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Sunday, July 21, 2024

Canadian PM ‘skeptical’ of Sri Lanka’s president’s promises

David Akin,
 Alone among its Commonwealth peers, Canada is calling out Sri Lanka’s government for failing to investigate war crimes allegedly committed by Sri Lanka’s army in the final months of that country’s bloody civil war. The Commonwealth, on the other hand, rewarded Sri Lanka Sunday by re-affirming its decision to hold its 2013 heads of government summit in the Sri Lankan capital of Colombo.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper won’t be going, though. He said Canada will boycott that meeting unless Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa allows an independent investigation into allegations that the Sri Lankan military engaged in indiscriminate shelling of civilians and bombed hospitals in 2009.

“I had a couple of opportunities to speak to the president of Sri Lanka,” Harper said at the conclusion of the 2011 Commonwealth Heads of Government summit held over the weekend here.

But Rajapaksa, who lobbied hard here to prevent any discussion of his government’s potential complicity in war crimes, failed to convince Harper that he was serious about facing up to what a United Nations fact-finding panel called “credible allegations” of wrongdoing.

“I think it’s fair to say that the general tone of the president of Sri Lanka regarding these concerns was reassuring. However, I remain skeptical of some of the reassurances and will be working, obviously, between now and the next Commonwealth to insure that our concerns are genuinely addressed,” Harper said. “And if they’re not genuinely addressed, my previous position remains what it is.” 
Sri Lankan foreign minister G.L. Peiris tried to make it sound like Canada was out to lunch.

“Canada raised this issue,” Peiris told reporters here. “It is a unanimous decision so as far as we are concerned, it¹s final. It is irrevocable. It has never been subject of a dispute at any time during these proceedings.”

If Harper doesn’t go to Sri Lanka in 2013, his next chance to attend a Commonwealth summit will be in 2015 when it will be held in the Indian Ocean island state of Mauritius.


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